The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty - because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.
Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel's glittering facade: The cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.
Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence...and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess' petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.
I loved the cover of this novel and it didn't sound too blood-sheddy so thought I'd give it a whirl. With the success of the Selection Series by Kiera Cass, there are some copy cats cropping up. The similarities include the wonderful dresses, the high society that touches upon royal interaction, the politics etc. But where this novel differs is delivery. The idea is prime for an intense ride, but somehow comes across as ho-hum. I'm not sure if it's due to a lack of connection to our main character, Violet, but I found that she was more invested with her well-being than I was. All the correct steps were taken by the author - we meet our girls, we get to meet their families whom they've been separated from for four years to help us gather sympathy like a bouquet of roses. But everything initially moves at a slow pace and that's a detriment to writing an intense/suspenseful novel.
It IS interesting to read how things progress for Violet. The whole botched romance with the companion, Ash, felt contrived and wasn't a big draw for me plot wise. All these low-grade reactions were pulling my rating down until the final chapter where suddenly things got turned around. Finally some plot came along that demanded attention and then the book was done!
It was like watching a race and there's a guy in the back who is always slow and consistently in the back until the last half lap he suddenly realizes he's losing and he bursts with speed to finish with the front runners. Who knew? Not having expected the twist at the end, I'll be giving book two, The White Rose, a try in hopes that the ending, dazzling display in book one carries through to the next installment.